Six top tips on how to be more emotionally intelligent at work
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the way we manage emotions, both our own and those of others and it can play a critical role in determining our happiness, success, motivation and productivity at work and home.
To reap the benefits of Emotional Intelligence training or make significant and meaningful changes to develop our EI, we need to check in with how we are feeling on a day-to-day basis.
Whilst working in this field I have noticed that when I choose to adopt positive behaviours and attitudes towards myself and others and make it part of my everyday routine, being emotionally intelligent can feel easier.
Emotional Intelligence is a verb and very much about doing and being.
It is a dynamic state that changes according to many factors such as how aware we are at that moment, how busy we are, our long- term habits and behavioural patterns, and the conditions that we place on our own “Self-Regard” or “Regard for Others”.
I’m aware that there are many ways that we can increase our Emotional Intelligence, but what I’ve learnt is that what works for me may not work for others, and vice versa. It’s a personal thing that is different from person to person.
By understanding yourself (your patterns and triggers) and choosing your own nurturing habits, it helps you become more aware of your own needs and therefore ultimately helps you make the right choices to meet those needs.
Like most people I notice that when the pressure is on, I am more likely to adopt defensive behaviours that aren’t helpful to myself or to my relationships with others. I can become withdrawn, less communicative, more likely to be brusque and often tired.
At a time when I should be spending more time focusing on my own needs - I don’t, and the consequence is that I really don’t operate at my best.
Here’s my top six tips for managing my Emotional Intelligence at work which I hope will work for you too:
Get to know your emotions.
It was Plato who said that all learning has some emotional basis, and he was right. The way we interact with and regulate our emotions has repercussions in nearly every aspect of our lives. Ignoring our emotions can create a resistance which inflames our emotional state.
Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it!
People with high EI master their emotions because they understand them and use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. While many people might describe themselves as simply feeling "bad”, emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel "irritable", "frustrated", "downtrodden" or "anxious".
The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what caused it, and what you can do about it.
Tip: Put aside ten minutes every day to reflect on how you are feeling and practice naming your emotions (at JCA Global we have a feelings wheel which is great for helping you with this). At work, this will help you recognise early signs of stress or a need for renewal or support.
Keep things in perspective
When workloads increase and I feel under pressure it is easy to feel overwhelmed and consumed. But being “Realistically Optimistic”, identifying the facts and not telling myself stories that undermine my confidence helps me balance my thinking and emotions.
How you deal with mistakes and setbacks will give you information about your own patterns and therefore what you might need to deal with these. When an emotionally intelligent person experiences a failure or setback, he or she can bounce back quickly.
This is in part because of the ability to mindfully experience negative emotions without letting them get out of control and learning from the experience, which in time will provide more resilience.
Tip: When you begin to feel overwhelmed ask yourself , 'what am I thinking and feeling to cause me concern?' versus the evidence in front of me. If need be, use a trusted colleague to check out your thoughts. At work, this will enable you to build support networks and manage change or uncertainty more effectively.
Connect with others.
Emotionally intelligent people use their networks to support them in times of pressure - to delegate work, share ideas or gain some renewal and motivation.
Being emotionally intelligent is not about coping alone or being strong but rather using your networks to support you. You may be surprised that others are feeling the same way as you do!
Tip: Spend ten minutes a day sharing with a colleague how you and they are feeling. Many of our clients check in with each other as to how they are feeling at the start of meetings to help create an open environment. At work, this helps build positive collaborative relationships with colleagues.
Practice being grateful.
Notice what you do well, what is working and what motivates and energises you. A powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin.
Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex. The same as Prozac!
It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of Emotional Intelligence. One study found that gratitude affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex.
These density changes suggest that as Emotional Intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. In conclusion, with higher Emotional Intelligence, it takes less effort to be grateful.
Tip: At work, increase your motivation and engagement by naming three things you are grateful for each day. You could keep a record in a feelings journal and then look back at the end of each week on all you have to be grateful for.
Look after yourself.
You are important. Spend time taking regular breaks in your working day, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and exercise (even just 15 minutes activity is beneficial to the heart and mind). And don’t just think about your day, think about night time too by developing a positive and regular sleep routine.
We’ve all read the plethora of reports which show the benefits of leaving electronic devices out of the bedroom. Being emotionally intelligent is a holistic activity - our mental, emotional and physical states are inextricably linked.
Tip: Focusing on our health has been shown to reduce sickness, increase engagement and job satisfaction. If you have a difficult day with food or exercise, choose not to worry but just start again with your new habit the next morning and the good days will soon add up.
Develop a positive mindset.
What choices do you make day to day that are helpful to you managing your state effectively?
Practice choosing a growth mindset. We may not always get things right, life just isn’t like that. You need to choose to learn from your mistakes, take responsibility, spend time reflecting on what happened and how you were feeling.
Focus on the positive as well as the negative. This helps you begin to identify your patterns and triggers. Be compassionate to yourself - being emotionally intelligent, especially at work, is definitely not always easy or about constantly doing things perfectly.
Tip: If you slip back into old thinking patterns and notice you are being self-critical, why not ask yourself what your most compassionate best friend would say to you, and take their virtual advice. Or increase trust with colleagues and check in with them too.